To promote its fall lineup, ABC produced three half-hour preview shows that are the stuff of a TV exec's fantasy: they feature editors and writers from three big magazines who have traded their critics' hats for pom-poms.
"If you liked Grey's Anatomy, you're going to love Private Practice," said Alynda Wheat, a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly, in one of the shows.
About another new program, Ms. Wheat says, "If there's anything this season I'm excited about, it's Dirty Sexy Money. I mean, it just seems like so much fun. It's probably going to be the thing we're talking about come fall."
Working with a network to promote its shows may come across as contrary to journalistic objectivity, the New York Times opines, but editors say it's just a lending of expert opinion.
"We participated in the ABC special because our staffers are TV experts offering commentary," said Suzy Berkowitz-Weksel of Entertainment Weekly. "Their remarks are entirely separate from whatever reviews our critics later deliver."
If Ms. Wheat or the 17 others involved — including Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly, Craig Tomashoff of TV Guide and Galina Espinoza of People — had anything negative to say about ABC's programs, those comments were not shown, at least not in the parts ABC posted on YouTube.
This endorsement of shows - intended or not - did not sit well with Roy Peter Clark, vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
The basic question is whether Private Practice and other shows are being reviewed in an unbiased fashion.
"Do these editors have a free and independent and uninhibited voice in these programs?" he said.
"I would not agree to do something like this unless there were some kind of prenuptial agreement that stated that I was free to express — and they were required to air — any negative critiques I might have of the new programming."
Sandi Shurgin Werfel, a spokeswoman for People, said in a statement, "We didn't get involved with the editing of the program ... we never would, since it's not our show. We provided staffers to offer comments about the programs. We made it clear we would not endorse the shows."
Pete Haeffner, senior V.P. and publisher of TV Guide, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. A senior writer at the magazine, Michael Ausiello, had plenty to say, however, about Caveman, an ABC comedy.
"It's funny because you wouldn't think Caveman would be a show about issues and stuff," Ausiello tells the ABC audience in a preview. "But you really kind of walk away from it, you know, learning a lesson."